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Colorado’s offense was good until it wasn’t

This is the most painful of growing pains

NCAA Football: Colorado at Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tyson, the modern day Samuel L Johnson or Mark Twain, produced one of the most enduring and prescient quotes of our time: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Well, Coach Chiaverini and the Colorado Buffaloes had a plan. They’ve used the same plan since CSU. And why not? It’s been working. Feed #2 the ball like he hasn’t eaten in weeks, use the edges of the field (BUT NOT THE MIDDLE), and run Travon McMillian into the ground.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

USC punched the offense in the mouth. A lot. Enough to create 12 non-scoring drives. This creates a problem, and a big one. Coach Chiv has not encountered a problem so far as a playcaller. Before Saturday, the tests were incredibly easy. Every single question was multiple choice with all options being “Laviska Shenault.” Well, Clancy Pendergast and the Trojans just scrapped the answer key, made every question short answer, and asked questions about specific smaller articles even though most of the semester was based around the textbook, and you spent all your time studying the textbook material, so you’re completely screwed because why would the teacher ask questions about the stupid extra readings when he knows the class is based around the textbook.

The point is, USC just trashed any ideas that CU had coming in. Every quick pass to the outside, every crossing route at the line of scrimmage, and every slow power run were met with ferocity and quickness. It didn’t work out very well.

And therein lies the problem with having a green playcaller and a youthful offense (at least on the line). Coach Chiv had to pivot quickly in a huge game. It’s not easy to learn on the job in a pressure cooker like that. So, time after time, when the defense gifted the offense another stop and good field position, the Buffs couldn’t capitalize. The plays that have worked for 300 game minutes didn’t work anymore. The Buffs can’t afford to lose those chances against a team like USC.

Let’s talk a bit about why Chiv likes to go lateral so much and why he stays near the line of scrimmage. Part of it is the Texas Tech roots and the quick pace of play. But another part is that the offensive line has been a crapshoot this year. From game to game, play to play, drive to drive, the five big dudes up front oscillate from horrendous to good. It’s hard to call long, downfield throws or counter runs when you can’t reliably count on the OL for three or more seconds of blocking. Last night, this issue was amplified by a good front seven. The Trojans had multiple headhunters (quite literally) in the backfield on almost every play. CU had three freshmen playing up front, which is great for their development, but it sucks for now.

The Buffs lost on Saturday because of offensive ineptitude. After five weeks of autopilot, they had to pull an in-air 180 and, uh, it didn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, this will pay dividends in the long term, but it’s painful to see now. Chiv learned on the fly and actually strung together nice drives late, and I’m sure this reality check will help next week. They actually attacked downfield, with large receivers on the outside of the formation, and allowed Montez to move around. But in a huge game with conference implications, the offense showed its youth, in scheme and execution. That hurts.